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Discretionary Spending Offsets Weakened

An effort by Senate Republicans to scale back something they consider a budget gimmick was weakened but not stopped in the fiscal 2016 budget resolution.

The House-Senate compromise budget preserved some of the restrictions on CHIMPs, or changes in mandatory programs, that were contained in the Senate budget plan. CHIMPs are used to offset higher discretionary spending.

The tax and spending blueprint potentially limits the use of certain CHIMPs, those which do not reduce spending measured as outlays, to $19.1 billion in fiscal 2016 and phases the cap down to $15 billion in fiscal 2019. The restriction is enforceable with a point of order in both the House and Senate.

The budget resolution also provides for a point of order against more than $10.8 billion in CHIMPs associated with the Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund. That limit only applies in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1.

No restrictions on CHIMPs were included in the House budget resolution. The CHIMP limitations in the Senate budget drew vociferous complaints from House appropriators, who said the changes in mandatory programs were necessary to offset higher discretionary spending next year. Still, when the restrictions were watered down in the compromise budget, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., threatened to block adoption of the conference report by not signing it. He eventually relented.

No changes were made in the CHIMP restrictions to win Corker’s approval. However, the compromise budget includes language directing the House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees to work with other committees to review enforcement procedures for CHIMPs in appropriations bills.

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